The flâneur archetype takes different forms but can easily be identified in the figure of Brassaï (1899–1984) who embodies Rebecca Solnit’s description of the flâneur as “… the image of an observant and solitary man strolling about Paris” (Solnit, 2001, p.198). Brassaï photographed, in both senses, the darker side of Paris. He photographed transvestites and homosexuals at underground bars and clubs, and he photographed the streets of Paris extensively at night, published in the celebrated Paris by Night (1933).
“Psychogeography could set for itself the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, whether consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals. The charmingly vague adjective psychogeographical can be applied to the findings arrived at by this type of investigation, to their influence on human feelings, and more generally to any situation or conduct that seems to reflect the same spirit of discovery.”
(http://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/presitu/geography.html quoted Alexander 2013 p74)
Psychogeography in literature has a long history. London, as imagined by writers including William Blake (1757–1827), Daniel Defoe (1659–1731), Thomas de Quincey (1785–1859) and Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–94), Stevenson in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), have all been identified as a place where early traces of psychogeography can be found.
It has also veered between being:
- a mode of artistic expression
- associated with Marxist ideology and political and social change.
Two inter-linked terms that are key to understanding psychogeography:
- The dérive is a key method of psychogeographical enquiry. The literal translation from the French is ‘drift’ and a dérive is a spontaneous, unplanned walk through a city, guided by the individual’s responses to the geography, architecture and ambience of its quarters.The dérive can be seen as one strategy to help bridge the gap between the actual, physical observations of the stroller and their subconscious. Similar techniques have been used in geography, sociology and anthropology as a means of research that opens up possibilities and new questions based on direct observation.
- The flâneur (a term that originates from Charles Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin) is essentially the protagonist of the dérive, but more generally the ‘gentleman stroller’ (as Baudelaire put it) who enjoys the aesthetic pleasures of the sights and sounds he experiences. The emphasis here is more on the aesthetic interpretation of the observer and emotional responses to the views and events that unfold. The flâneur has been identified in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Man of the Crowd (1840) and in the shady figure lurking in the corner of Edouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. Listen to Philip Pullman discussing Manet’s painting in depth.
- Brassai (1899-1984) flaneur
- Robert Adams
- Mark Power
However, alternative arbitrary methodologies have also been employed, championed initially by the Situationist movement as a necessary means – as they would see it – to subvert capitalist ideas about correctly engaging and functioning within the city. Other strategies included:
- the production of alternative maps, such as Debord’s The Naked City (1957), which attempted to facilitate users to experience the city according to their emotional state and responses.
- Robert MacFarlane’s simple alternative strategy of tracing a circle around the rim of a glass on a map and walking it, you can leave yourself open to new subject matter and unthought-of creative possibilities (see MacFarlane in Coverley, 2010, p.9).
The genre of street photography is often taken (and often mistaken) as evidence of psychogeography today. But although psychogeographical enquiry has traditionally been associated with the city, in more recent years it has expanded beyond its traditional boundaries, and is nowadays less associated with left-wing politics, having returned to a literary position.
- Iain Sinclair: fictional and non-fictional literary responses. In the book (and accompanying film) London Orbital (2002), Sinclair chronicles his epic walk along the M25 which encircles the capital, taking him to golf courses, retail and business parks, and other generic spaces.
- Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts’ book Edgelands: Journeys into England’s True Wilderness (2011), celebrates subjects as diverse as shipping containers, landfill sites and wooden pallets.
- Some have identified the urban sport of parkour (or ‘freerunning’) and even the Occupy movement with psychogeography.
Yang Yongliang is a Chinese contemporary artist. As a young student, he studied traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy before attending the Shanghai Art & Design Academy, where he specialized in decoration and design beginning in 1996. (Wikipedia)
He produces very atmospheric animated digital paintings that overlay traditional Chines landscapes with modern day scenes.
This website has good coverage of his videos and other work.
Relevance to my practice:
Stylistic inspiration for 3.2 The Bamboocutter
I had hoped to animate some of my images from Aldeburgh using similar techniques. This is now postponed to VisCom Level 3.
Edward Burtynsky, OC (born February 22, 1955) is a Canadian photographer and artist known for his large-format photographs of industrial landscapes. Burtynsky’s most famous photographs are sweeping views of landscapes altered by industry: mine tailings, quarries, scrap piles. The grand, awe-inspiring beauty of his images is often in tension with the compromised environments they depict.
Exploring the Residual Landscape
Nature transformed through industry is a predominant theme in my work. I set course to intersect with a contemporary view of the great ages of man; from stone, to minerals, oil, transportation, silicon, and so on. To make these ideas visible I search for subjects that are rich in detail and scale yet open in their meaning. Recycling yards, mine tailings, quarries and refineries are all places that are outside of our normal experience, yet we partake of their output on a daily basis.
These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear. We are drawn by desire – a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction. For me, these images function as reflecting pools of our times.
His series Oil (2009) resolves an epiphany he had in 1997, when he realised just how tightly connected all of our global activity was to petrol and its raw material – oil.
The monograph is divided into three sections:
- images of extraction and refinement;
- the consumption of oil and motor culture;
- abandoned ‘oilfields run dry’ and motor vehicles of all descriptions resigned to huge scrap heaps.
The images within Oil evoke a terrifying sense of the sublime. It is within the third section that the images have their most potent effect, for instance seemingly endless rows of impotent, rusting fighter jets in Arizona, or a channel cutting through a canyon of stacked worn car tyres in California. Some of the most striking images are those made at the Chittagong ship breakers in Bangladesh. The proportions of the structures that the workers pick apart, almost by hand, are awesome, and just as affecting are the horrendous conditions in which they work. Although not overtly critical in any explicitly rhetorical sense (i.e. like Kennard’s montages), it is impossible to read Burtynsky’s position as anything but one of grave concern for our consumption of this valuable substance.
Some images in Burtynsky’s Oil can be interpreted from different perspectives: great stacks of compressed oil drums or bits of car parts might speak of excess and consumption but, whilst they refer to manufacturing in a past tense, these are also the raw materials for current industries, ready to be melted down and turned into new things.
He has made several excursions to China to photograph that country’s industrial emergence, and construction of one of the world’s largest engineering projects, the Three Gorges Dam.
Burtynsky was born in St. Catharines, Ontario. His parents had immigrated to Canada in 1951 from Ukraine and his father found work on the production line at the local General Motors plant. Burtynsky recalls playing by theWelland Canal and watching ships pass through the locks. When he was 11, his father purchased a darkroom, including cameras and instruction manuals, from a widow whose late husband practiced amateur photography.With his father, Burtynsky learned how to make black-and-white photographic prints and together with his older sister established a small business taking portraits at the local Ukrainian center. In the early ’70s, Burtynsky found work in printing and he started night classes in photography, later enrolling at the Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
From the mid-1970s to early 1980s, Burtynsky formally studied graphic arts and photography. He obtained a diploma in graphic arts from Niagara College in Welland, Ontario, in 1976, and a BAA in Photographic Arts (Media Studies Program) from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto, Ontario, in 1982.
His early influences include Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Eadweard Muybridge, and Carleton Watkins, whose prints he saw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the early 1980s. Another group whose body of work shares similar themes and photographic approaches to Burtynsky’s work are the photographers who were involved in the exhibition New Topographics.
- 1983 – 1985 Breaking Ground: Mines, Railcuts and Homesteads, Canada, USA
- 1991 – 1992 Vermont Quarries, USA
- 1997 – 1999 Urban Mines: Metal Recycling, Canada Tire Piles, USA
- 1993 – Carrara Quarries, Italy
- 1995 – 1996 Tailings, Canada
- 1999 – 2010 Oil Canada, China, Azerbaijan, USA
- 2000 – Makrana Quarries, India
- 2000 – 2001 Shipbreaking, Bangladesh
- 2004 – 2006 China
- 2006 – Iberia Quarries, Portugal
- 2007 – Australian Mines, Western Australia
- 2009 – 2013 Water Canada, USA, Mexico, Europe, Asia, Iceland, India
Video: Manufactured Landscapes
In 2006, Burtynsky was the subject of the documentary film, Manufactured Landscapes, that was shown at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Documentary Competition.
Burtynsky and Jennifer Baichwal, who was his director on the 2006 documentary Manufactured Landscapes, are co-directors of the 2013 documentary film, Watermark. The film is part of his five-year project Water focusing on the way water is used and managed.
Most of Burtynsky’s exhibited photography (pre 2007) was taken with a large format field camera on large 4×5-inch sheet film and developed into high-resolution, large-dimension prints of various sizes and editions ranging from 18 x 22 inches to 60 x 80 inches. He often positions himself at high-vantage points over the landscape using elevated platforms, the natural topography, and more currently helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Burtynsky describes the act of taking a photograph in terms of “The Contemplated Moment”, evoking and in contrast to, “The Decisive Moment” of Henri Cartier-Bresson. In 2007 he began using a high-resolution digital camera.
The Long Now Foundation
In July 2008 Burtynsky delivered a seminar for the Long Now Foundation entitled “The 10,000 year Gallery”. The foundation promotes very long-term thinking and is managing various projects including the Clock of the Long Now, which is a clock designed to run for 10,000 years. Burtynsky was invited by clock designer Danny Hillis to contribute to the Long Now project, and Burtynsky proposed a gallery to accompany the clock. In his seminar, he suggested that a gallery of photographs which captured the essence of their time, like the cave paintings at Lascaux, could be curated annually and then taken down and stored. He outlined his research into a carbon-transfer process for printing photographs that would use inert stone pigments suspended in a hardened gelatine colloid and printed onto thick watercolour paper. He believes that these photographs would persist over the 10,000 year time-frame when stored away from moisture.
Sugimoto has spoken of his work as an expression of ‘time exposed’, or photographs serving as a time capsule for a series of events in time. His work also focuses on transience of life, and the conflict between life and death. Sugimoto is also deeply influenced by the writings and works of Marcel Duchamp, as well as the Dadaist and Surrealist movements as a whole. He has also expressed a great deal of interest in late 20th century modern architecture.
His use of an 8×10 large-format camera and extremely long exposures have given Sugimoto a reputation as a photographer of the highest technical ability. He is equally acclaimed for the conceptual and philosophical aspects of his work.
Exerpts from his description of selected works from his website:
Joe: Like a work of architecture, this sculpture has to be experienced by walking around and through it… Joe is different according to the time of the day, the season, and the viewer’s position. It is in the visitor’s memory that the sculpture “takes shape” in the most complete way…Using a photographic technique involving areas of extremely soft light and blurred darkness, he sculpted views that seem like aspects of visual memory: the arts of photography and sculpture overlap and memories of the two-and the three-dimensional mix.
Revolution: For a long time it was my job to stand on cliffs and gaze at the sea, the horizon where it touches the sky. The horizon is not a straight line, but a segment of a great arc. One day, standing atop a lone island peak in a remote sea, the horizon encompassing my entire field of vision, for a moment I was floating in the centre of a vast basin. But then, as I viewed the horizon encircle me, I had a distinct sensation of the earth as a watery globe, a clear vision of the horizon not as an endless expanse but the edge of an oceanic sphere…There remains… a great divide between comprehending (i.e.explaining) the world and being able to explain what we ourselves are. And even then, what we can explain of the world is far less than what we cannot ― though people tend be more attracted by the unexplained. In all this, I somehow feel we are nearing an era when religion and art will once again cast doubts upon science, or else an era when things better seen through to a scientific conclusion will bow to religious judgement.
Seascapes: Water and air. So very commonplace are these substances, they hardly attract attention―and yet they vouchsafe our very existence…Let’s just say that there happened to be a planet with water and air in our solar system, and moreover at precisely the right distance from the sun for the temperatures required to coax forth life. While hardly inconceivable that at least one such planet should exist in the vast reaches of universe, we search in vain for another similar example. Mystery of mysteries, water and air are right there before us in the sea. Every time I view the sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home; I embark on a voyage of seeing.
Lightning sheets: The idea of observing the effects of electrical discharges on photographic dry plates reflects my desire to re-create the major discoveries of these scientific pioneers in the darkroom and verify them with my own eyes.
Architecture: I decided to trace the beginnings of our age via architecture. Pushing my old large-format camera’s focal length out to twice-infinity―with no stops on the bellows rail, the view through the lens was an utter blur―I discovered that superlative architecture survives, however dissolved, the onslaught of blurred photography. Thus I began erosion-testing architecture for durability, completely melting away many of the buildings in the process.
Chamber of Horrors: People in olden times were apparently less fearful and grievous of death than we are today. To some it was even an honor to be chosen by the gods as a sacrificial victim, a liberation from the sufferings and strife of this life…Must we moderns be so sheltered from death?
Some early women photographers did do serious topographical work in the late nineteenth and early 20C:
- Evelyn Cameron,
- Laura Gilpin,
- Frances Benjamin Johnson
- Elizabeth Ellen Roberts
Artistic photography, continuing the ‘genteel’ occupations for lady sketchers and watercolourists, was also conducted by:
- Anna Atkins
- Julia Margaret Cameron
- Lady Hawarden
- Lady Elizabeth Eastlake
But their work was more closely aligned with the family album, documentary and performance, rather topographic. (ibid, p.188).
Feminist discourse since the 1970s has rejected the monopoly of the male gaze and articulated the female point of view in relation to the landscape. Social and technological developments have also made serious photographic excursions into the landscape considerably more accessible (Wells, 2011, p.189). A number of female photographers have, in one form or another, engaged with feminist politics in relation to the landscape and the concept of nature, as well as the male gaze.
For interesting feminist and other modern approaches see:
- Helen Sear’s series Grounded (2000), in which she digitally combines photographs of skies with images of animal hides photographed at a museum.
- Jo Spence subverts classical depictions of nude female figures within idealised settings.
- Elina Brotherus
- Karen Knorr
- Susan Trangmar
- Sian Bonnell
- Barbara Kruger
- Joan Fontcuberta Bodyscapes (2005) employ three-dimensional imaging software used for military applications to render landscape images of close-up photographs of his own body.
Photoshop video compositing
Cutout text effects
Smoke and other effects
Catherine Anyango uses film, sculpture and mise-en-scene devices to reconstruct physical environments that are disrupted by psychological, intangible phenomena. Many of her images are powerful graphite black and white drawings, often dealing with political issues.
Heart of Darkness 2010, a graphic novel adaptation of Conrad’s novel about colonialism
She has produced live film events around London, including the Victoria & Albert Museum and the National Film Theatre.
Current projects look at the emotional manifestations of crime and guilt upon public and private space.
In upcoming graphic novel 2×2 the banality of corruption affects the physical structure of a city and in recent drawings of crime scenes and police violence the images act as subjective evidence of horror.
She studied at St Martins and the Royal College of Art followed by an MA in English Literature at UCL. Since then she has exhibited at Art Basel Miami Beach, the London Design Festival, Guest Projects and Design Miami Basel. She is currently a Tutor in Visual Research at the Royal College of Art.o
distinctive quirky illustrations: oil paint, watercolour, lithographs. Pencil on oil. Or pencil and watercolour.
I paint Paris how I want it to look. A Paris drawn from films, books, poems. Fewer cars, less noise and stress, better clothes, nicer notice boards – or that’s what I like to imagine. I use selective vision.
flat and skewed perspective. A lot of neutral pastel colours.
somewhat randomly inserted. Different sizes. Captions give title, medium and size – as if they are to be sold???
somewhat random text. In chapters, but without clear narrative. Little vignettes with illustration.
how I see paris
Interview with Tessa Newcomb